This article was originally published at DC Comics News on December 27, 2013.
The DCN crew continues their look back on the best of 2013. In this installment, the team reflects on the stories that captured imaginations, toyed with emotions, and are the reason these characters continue to endure.
Best Single Issue
ASH: Green Lantern #20 – A fitting send-off for Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern run. This oversized issue was full of weird and exciting moments, but the epilogue was simply fantastic. The relationship between Hal and Sinestro has always been one of my favorite aspects of Johns’ tenure on the title and we finally got to see that their uneasy alliance was really a bromance the whole time.
MAX: Action Comics #23.3: Lex Luthor – Can’t call Charles Soule the writer of the year without actually talking about one of his comics, can I? Lex Luthor is DC’s greatest villain, and this book does a fantastic job of highlighting exactly why. It takes place on the day leading up to the events of Forever Evil #1; Lex has just been released from prison, and is returning to business. We see him work on his evil super science, eliminate business competitors, and just be an all-around horrible person. And it’s all done with the kind of Machiavellian panache you would expect from Lex. Fantastic one-shot highlighting just who Lex is, and what makes Lex Luthor such a terrifying and brilliant character.
DAN: Batman #24 – While it may not have been my favorite single issue (that honor goes to The Flash Annual #2), there’s no denying that the best single issue of 2013 came from what has become DC’s unofficial flagship title. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s oversized issue is currently the high point (in the eyes of this reader) of the creators’ 11 issue “Zero Year” mega-arc. The issue gave us the debut of the New 52’s Batman, the dissolution of the Red Hood Gang, and the rebirth of a legend. With fantastic visuals by Capullo (including a brilliant homage to Batman’s first appearance),Batman #24 stands tall above the rest of DC’s releases.
CHASE: Adventures of Superman #2 (digital release) – Two boys tell a story of Superman defeating Brainiac. It’s nothing complicated. In fact, it’s very simple. Yet it speaks to the power of the character in a way that nothing has since Morrison’s All-Star Superman. In Lemire’s contribution to theAdventures of Superman digital anthology, Superman is a mythic figure. He fills the imaginations of the young and teaches them to fight for truth and justice. He’s an inspiration to two fictional boys, who in turn inspire the reader to believe in the wonder of imagination, in the power of good over evil, in Superman.
MATT: Batman #13 – This year I’ve heard a lot from fans that they’re sick of the Joker. He is “overused” and “played out.” While I do think the Joker is used too often, I couldn’t disagree more about him being played out. In this single issue, Scott Snyder proves that without the Joker, Batman is nothing. Joker in the wrong hands can be just that: a joke, very one-note. Scott Snyder, with help from Greg Capullo, reinvents the Joker with the start of “Death of the Family”. They also show that when the Joker comes to Gotham, things should be changed forever. He should be an event, a once in a while event that’s big and shakes the very core of everything Batman. Scott made Joker scary again; he’s a serial killer, he’s dangerous, and he’s unpredictable. All those things made this a great issue.
JAY: Batman #17 – Scott Snyder’s epic “Death of the Family” arc packed a wallop. It was a divisive story that angered many fans because nobody actually died. Instead, Snyder killed the idea of the Bat Family, which in retrospect (and even at the time for this reader) was a lot more powerful. “Death of the Family” ended with Batman’s allies losing faith in the Caped Crusader after he lied to them about how much the Joker knew about their true identities. Batman #17 is the anti-anti-climactic issue that no one knew was coming. It didn’t have a massive apex that slid into a heartfelt conclusion, but rather a series of terrifying elements that actually changed the entire paradigm of Batman’s world.
No longer do Nightwing, Robin (R.I.P.), Red Robin, Batgirl, or Red Hood see Batman as the infallible Dark Knight they once did; Batman #17 conveyed the crumbling of the Batman Family in a most subtle and devastating way. The loose ends weren’t tied up, the questions weren’t fully answered, and Snyder made it explicitly clear that the Joker is far more dangerous than anyone anticipated. Just not in the way any of us expected.
Best Story Arc
ASH: “At the End of Days” (Action Comics) – I don’t know if this really counts since it’s really just a continuation (and conclusion) of Morrison’s Superman story in Action Comics that’s been going on since 2011…but I don’t care. I loved every second of Morrison’s run on Action Comics and I thought it concluded beautifully. There aren’t many great Mxyzptlk stories out there (seriously, the only other one I can think of is “Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?”), but when one does come along, it deserves to be celebrated.
MAX: “Horror City” (Justice League Dark) – The modern landscape of comics is full of really long story arcs. A lot of them are written for the trade, with six-issue story arcs being the standard so they can be compiled in one collection and sold in one neat package. Some story arcs can go longer, and there are instances like Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman where, although it’s broken up into acts, you’ve had one single endless plot running since the start of the New 52. Far too many story arcs in the New 52 have been really long and dedicated to “changing the status quo as you know it forever!”, while never actually giving time for a status quo to set in. And you’re forced to go over this repeatedly in half-year increments. “Horror City” is not such a case; it’s a fun, three-issue story arc that, while leaving some ideas for future developments, stands on its own.
The story is simple: Doctor Destiny takes control of the House of Mystery, the base of the Justice League Dark, and uses its power to flood New York City with nightmares. The JLD tries recruiting Swamp Thing to help them, but Swamp Thing gets captured, and the JLD are sucked into their own personal nightmares, until none other than the Flash saves them. Not only is the story fun, but it’s also short and does something big for the series by taking the focus off Constantine. Up until this point, Justice League Darkhad been about the team making minimal contributions to their adventures while Constantine always saved the day and took all the glory. After that, the focus changed to glorifying Frankenstein, but in Horror City, they actually have to work together. Everybody is involved in this adventure, with Constantine causing the trouble, with Flash, Swamp Thing, Madame Xanadu, Frankenstein, and Deadman all playing a part to save the day. It’s a fantastic story that really shows off what all the characters involved can do, and it’s a prime example of the kind of fun, magical adventure that makes Justice League Dark my favorite comic.
DAN: “Reverse” (The Flash) – Is it a little too on-the-nose for the guy that reviews The Flash and loves the character to pick this story arc as the best of 2013? Perhaps, but “Reverse” by Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul had everything I could hope for. Compelling mystery? Check. Strong characterizations? Check. Emotional payoff? Check, check and check. From his first appearance back in issue #17, the identity of the Reverse Flash was a subject of much speculation. , Rather than revealing it early on, Buccellato and Manapul dropped a red herring and false hints to throw readers off the scent, ultimately leading to a satisfying reveal. Combined with a satisfying conclusion and some absolutely gorgeous layouts from Manapul, “Reverse” is a gripping action-mystery worth revisiting over and over again.
CHASE: “Death of the Family” (Batman) – Snyder deserves to be recognized for writing a story that was widely acclaimed, with most of that acclaim missing the point of the story. It is, in and of itself, a greatly enjoyable story about Batman’s newest battle with his arch-nemesis, the Joker. However, it’s also a horror story that focuses on a type of fear much more relatable and common than that of a faceless sociopath attacking your family: the fear of failing your family. Snyder’s “Death of the Family” is a piece that deals with the inherent terror of being a parent and the inevitable moment when you fail to live up to the expectations of your children. It’s simultaneously an incredibly personal and universal story written by a young father of two.
MATT: “Death of the Family” (Batman) – See my comments on best single issue (Batman #13) for why this was the best story arc of 2013.
JAY: “Second City” (Nightwing) tied with “Lights Out” (Green Lantern, et al.) – After “Death of the Family”, Dick Grayson left Gotham City and it was the best thing to happen to Nightwing in a long, long time. Dick has never wanted for fans, but his move to Chicago recharged the character in ways that could only happen if he was distanced from Batman and the soul-sucking city that birthed his alter ego. Without Bruce Wayne’s bankroll and with an old vendetta to settle, Nightwing had little time to settle into the Windy City before the Prankster began terrorizing it’s citizens in an effort to smear the reputation of Mayor Wallace, a corrupt politician who employed known gangster and criminal Tony Zucco (the man who murdered Nightwing’s parents) and embezzled millions from the city. While “Second City” was criminally overlooked, it was a standout arc that showed how Nightwing could still be a viable and popular character standing outside the shadow of the Bat.
When Robert Venditti took over writing Green Lantern after Geoff Johns’ departure, many fans were wary of someone new penning a series that had only one other writer in the past decade. Though it’s still debated whether his direction is good or bad for the Green Lantern corner of the DCU, Venditti’s “Lights Out” fundamentally changed the way readers see the Green Lanterns and how they operate.
The anti-villain Relic is one of the best new characters to be introduced in the New 52, and his assertions that the emotional spectrum utilized by Lanterns of every color is actually a reservoir than can be depleted was one of the best new elements to come to the Green Lantern franchise in a long time. Geoff Johns may have surprised readers at every turn with the evil machinations of the Guardians of the Universe, but Venditti has movedGreen Lantern into a new chapter of its legacy as opposed to continually mining the past.
Best Moment (Comics)
ASH: War summons the soldiers of wars past (Wonder Woman) – My favorite moment of the year was in Wonder Woman #23. The epic battle between The First Born and Diana’s ever-growing posse of misfit gods and would-be-gods was finally underway. First Born had his army of hyena monsters (as one does) and Ares boldly proclaimed that he had an army of his own. And then this insanely badass moment happened:
FIRST BORN – “What soldiers would follow you, old man?”
ARES – “All of them.”
Cue army of ghost soldiers from every era of warfare known to man.
MAX: Alfred beats up Superman (Injustice: Gods Among Us) – This comes from the climax of the Injustice: Gods Among Us comic, so yeah, spoilers. Superman has gone over the edge. He’s killed Green Arrow, who was part of a team to steal a new experimental superpower pill for Batman, and broke into the Batcave to deal with the Caped Crusader himself. Batman does his best to distract Superman, but when he goes to take the superpower pill for himself, Superman knocks it away from him. This is it. Superman is beating the tar out of Batman, and it looks like this is the end for the Dark Knight. Enter Alfred Pennyworth, who has taken the pill for himself and proceeds to save Batman by absolutely wiping the floor with Superman. Alfred is a well-loved character, and seeing him actually fight the most powerful man in the world to save Batman and win that fight is the coolest thing you will ever see. You can break Batman, or put Superman into a healing coma, but nobody screws with Alfred Pennyworth.
DAN: The Death of Damian (Batman Incorporated #8) – The biggest moment of the year happened early on, back in February’s Batman Incorporated #8 in which Damian Wayne, the then-current Robin, met his end at the hands of his brother/clone in an attempt to thwart his mother’s invasion of Gotham City. Fans were shocked, outraged, and in denial. When Damian was introduced back in the opening of Grant Morrison’s Batman saga, he was met with disdain. With his death, fans have been clamoring for his return. If and when that happens remains to be seen, but the exchange between him and Dick Grayson mere moments before his demise is an enduring image of a fan favorite.
CHASE: Grant Morrison concludes his Batman run (Batman Inc. #13) – “All I really need to know is this. Batman always comes back, bigger and better, shiny and new. Batman never dies. It never ends. It probably never will.”
Grant Morrison’s conclusion to his seven year run on Batman titles provided a fitting denouement for all of what he had tried to accomplish with varying degrees of success. His titles were about Batman as a figure of myth, one whose entire history was all simultaneously true from the wackiest of adventures to the darkest of defeats. In the end though, the story moves on, others will write Batman and Morrison’s work will just become another segment of a never-ending legacy. That was the point.
MATT: Nightwing’s identity revealed (Forever Evil #1) – Forever Evil has been a mixed bag, in my opinion. If nothing else, it sure started with bang! The Crime Syndicate’s public unmasking of Dick Grayson as Nightwing was shocking for all fans.
JAY: Deafening Silence (Batman and Robin #18) – After the death of Damian Wayne, Peter J. Tomasi took the series in a new direction by pairing up Batman with all his various allies for six months. But before that, there was the “Requiem”, a silent issue wherein Bruce Wayne struggles through the first few days after his son’s death, taking out all his frustration on faceless gangsters and hoping that his little Robin would magically swing in at the last moment to tell Batman that the whole mess with Leviathan was just a horrid nightmare that he’d finally woken up from. Alfred’s tears and Damian’s (now posthumous) letter to his father both added to the swell of emotions that came from the death of a Robin. Overall, it was an incredibly moving issue that showcased Patrick Gleason’s artwork as well as Tomasi’s ability to say so much without using any words.
About the Staff
ASH MAHTANI is the writer of the conversation starting “Showcase Presents” opinion pieces. Though his views are not universal, he is the heart of the DCN staff.
MAX DWECK heads the review department and reviews nearly all of DC’s Dark line of titles (Justice League Dark, Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger, etc). He also loves all things Deadman.
DAN GEHEN primarily reviews The Flash and Nightwing, as well as whatever else needs a look. Even Katana, which was a huge mistake.
CHASE MAGNETT is the “Vertigo guy,” reviewing 100 Bullets: Brother Lono, Trillium, and Fables. Lucky guy.
JAY MATTSON is the Head Editor of Reviews and News for DCN, as well as the reviewer of a plethora of titles. It’s likely he changed a few things from this article’s original draft.
MATT GALVIN is the founder and driving force behind DCComicsNews.com. Without him, this article would never have happened.